Improving maternal health outcomes is crucial to improving women’s overall health, and our new research suggests racial disparities impact women of color across all socio-economic levels. An Anthem study in maternal and infant outcomes among nearly 76,000 members who were pregnant, including those with early termination, discovered racial/ethnic disparities persist beyond neighborhood level socio-economic status and insurance coverage. In fact, non-Hispanic Black pregnant women have at least 20% higher risk for maternal morbidity, including preterm birth, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, and stillbirth/fetal death, compared to non-Hispanic White women with similar demographics, clinical characteristics and socio-economic status.
In the United States, mothers are dying at the highest rate in the developed world, and Black mothers are dying at three to four times that of White mothers. Anthem research found reducing disparities in maternal and infant health requires a data-informed, multi-system and multi-level approach, and an understanding of interpersonal, institutional and structural racism.
In response to this crisis, a recent White House proclamation declared the week of April 11, 2021 the nation’s first-ever Black Maternal Health Week, spotlighting racial inequities in maternal healthcare and outcomes. Anthem is committed to uncovering drivers of disparity, and continually working with communities to engage on these critical issues.
One community initiative we’ve employed, The First Lady Teas program, is designed to encourage faith-based leaders to provide information and support to at-risk mothers and babies in their congregations with education-focused community baby showers. Bringing pregnant women together to learn and support one another yields strong results, as we’ve learned through engaging in CenteringPregnancy, a group prenatal care model. Specifically, it has led to reductions in preterm birth rates and increased birth weights.
Through multi-system approaches like these – which combine data, community engagement, and education – we are working to break down barriers and increase access to high-quality maternal healthcare for women of color.
In a new major announcement, BCBSA plans across the country have come together to launch a multi-year national health equity strategy, starting with a focus on maternal health, where we will explore and scale best practices like these. The goal is to reduce racial disparities in maternal health by 50% in five years. Learn more about the new initiative here.